Gilbert Ryle

by John Kuligowski

Three months ago Shaun turned into a television—not a contemporary model, flat and slender with a high definition screen, but one of those elephantine wood frame beasts you used to see families atavistically gather about during the decline of the myth of the nuclear age.

We were talking politics and eating acid when it happened. I can’t remember exactly what I’d said to provoke him. Usually it was political action committees within the Matrix, blahblahblah, I think I’ll eat some more paper, contrails of light streaking from fingertips, calligraphic cherry blossoms snapping off the carpet of his mother’s mobile home. This time my voice stopped in the abrasive silence. The idea of going outside hit me, of seeing the autumn sky rather than being trapped in the frowzy, nicotine-stained trailer. I looked over at Shaun. I hadn’t noticed the shift of weight on the sofa. He was enormous. His glass screen waited to connect with the floor. I leapt up, cursing him for such assholery, and carefully helped him to where gravity would more or less eventually have forced him. After cursing him some more and getting no response, and kicking his frame and getting no response, I lay before his great gray screen, chin propped on my knuckles. He seemed to have no more use for me.

I studied myself in his gray convexity I don’t know how long. Eventually, his mother came from her bedroom and asked where Shaun had gone to. I tapped the screen and attempted a pantomime of what had happened. She laughed and told me I was quite the comedian. She went to the kitchen and made herself another margarita. When she came back, she said that if Shaun was going to be out for a while, did I want to …? and I said that I did. We fucked in front of Shaun’s gray convexity.

Shaun’s mother and I are living together. I couldn’t stand seeing Shaun every time his mother and I would came out of her bedroom. We sold Shaun to an artist who gutted him and made him into a chic fish tank. Every so often I see tears in his mother’s green eyes, and when she’s had too many margaritas in an afternoon, she asks me where Shaun is and buffets me with weak slaps. I try to tell her the truth but she tells me I’m lying. Every day I feel the ghost inside becoming more like the machine outside.


John Kuligowski currently lives and writes in the Midwest where he primarily subsists on Ramen Noodles. His work has recently appeared in Word Riot, Medulla Review, Unlikely 2.0, and a number of others.
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